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Posted on Friday, December 09 - 2005

" It has been there all along, right under our noses and we didn't know of its existence. A mysterious "new" mammal discovered in Indonesia has the scientific world agog.Slightly larger than a cat, with red fur and a long bushy tail, it was photographed by WWF researchers in the ..."

Borneo Carnivore

It has been there all along, right under our noses and we didn't know of its existence. A mysterious "new" mammal discovered in Indonesia has the scientific world agog.Slightly larger than a cat, with red fur and a long bushy tail, it was photographed by WWF researchers in the rainforests of Kalimantan. Even the locals apparently did not know that such a creature existed. In an age when most of us assume that mankind has covered every inch of the planet and identified every species on it, the appearance of an unknown mammal has made worldwide news in the last 48 hours.But the fact that people are so interested in this discovery isno surprise to Frank Bisby.

Professor Bisby is making a list of all the living things on this planet. He has so far notched up well over half a million of them in his Catalogue of Life. And one of the most intriguing aspects of his monumental task is that, while recording every detail of the species we are familiar with, others keep popping up out of the unknown - "several thousand of them every year", he remarks casually. A handful of new bird species, 100 new types of fish, 2,000 flowering plants and thousands of new insects are identified annually. The past year alone has seen a new eel, catfish and fairy shrimp. New mammals are rarer. Sadly, these creatures are being wiped out far faster than we discover new species. But in the past few years, the world's smallest deer and even a"new" elephant have come to light. Three new categories of right whale and two new lemur sub-species were identified this year. And the zoological world was flummoxed by the discovery in May of a rodent that looked like a cross between a squirrel and a guinea pig. Labelled the "Laotian Rock Rat", it was on sale at a village food market but was, unfortunately, dead. With such discoveries flooding in from around the world, Prof Bisby and his team at Reading University are forever struggling to catch up. But he believes his work is vital. "To understand how fast we are losing species from our planet, we need to know how many there are in the first place, and no one has ever done that," he explains in his office in the university's school of biological sciences, where the projectbegan.......


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